'What on earth': Emma Raducanu in 'ridiculous' drama at Aus Open

Emma Raducanu, pictured here in action against Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open.
Emma Raducanu won a wild match against Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open. Image: Getty

The tennis world was left stunned on Tuesday night after Emma Raducanu won an extraordinary back-and-forth clash with Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open.

The US Open champion absolutely demolished her opponent in the first set, winning it 6-0 in a ridiculous 17 minutes while making just two unforced errors.

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The first game of the second set then lasted 12 minutes as Stephens finally managed to break Raducanu.

Raducanu broke back but Stephens won the next four games to get on level footing at one set apiece.

In the third set Raducanu rediscovered her aggression, reeling off the first five games of the decider before Stephens held serve to force the teenager to serve out the match.

The 19-year-old double-faulted on the first of three match points, then hit a second long, but foiled Stephens with a lovely backhand slice drop-shot to seal victory 6-0 2-6 6-1.

Raducanu has struggled since her breakthrough US Open triumph at Flushing Meadows last year and her first-round win over Stephens was her first victory of 2022.

"It was a tough match-up really for a first round, but I was just very happy," Raducanu said afterwards.

"I knew there was going to be some very long rallies and her athleticism is really up there, so I was having to work extremely hard for my points, but I'm so happy to have got through.

Emma Raducanu, pictured here after beating Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open.
Emma Raducanu celebrates after beating Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

"I was very pleased. Coming out of the first set, I thought I played some very good tennis with very little unforced errors.

"Then, of course, there was going to be some adversity in the long rallies. She was just edging through with her defence.

"I'm happy to have regrouped and in the third set, I don't think the score really reflected the level out there."

The topsy turvy nature of the match had tennis fans shook.

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Raducanu's tough end to 2021 was compounded by a bout of Covid-19 in Abu Dhabi in December.

That ruled her out of the Melbourne Summer Set, before she copped a straight sets loss to Elena Rybakina in the first round at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

“I think 2022 is all about learning for me,” she said.

“Being in those situations of, you know, winning a set and then having to fight in a decider is definitely all just accumulating into a bank of experience that I can tap into later on down the line.”

Stephens was also 19 when she reached her first major semi-final and 24 when she won the US Open.

“The hardest part is trying to prove that you are good enough to be where you are or good enough to stay where you are,” said Stephens.

“I was talking to someone in the locker room, and I’m like, ‘We’ll be here when she comes down’ - not Emma, but just in general.

“It all is like a cycle, and I think learning how to deal with it early on is the best way to handle it, just because there’s always a lot of ups and downs in tennis.”

Earlier on Tuesday, unheralded Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who lost to Raducanu in the US Open final, lost 6-4, 6-2 to Aussie wildcard Maddison Inglis.

“One of those days," Fernandez said. "Now it’s just: Get back on the practice court, get ready for the next tournament and the next match and see how it goes (at) the next grand slam.”

with agencies

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